Improve Your Mental Health by Exercising in Nature


If you’ve ever gone running along a beautiful wooded trail, or biked or hiked out in the country, you may have found that it was much more enjoyable (and beneficial to your mood) than working out indoors at the local gym or on your treadmill at home.

Well, a recent study in Environmental Science and Technology, a semi-monthly publication of the American Chemical Society, indicates that even spending as little as five minutes exercising in nature will enhance your self-esteem and improve your overall mood. “Nature” places can include a city park, a beautiful countryside, a walking / hiking trail, or even your back yard. This type of exercise has been referred to as “green exercise”.

There is a plethora of research that supports the idea that exercising in nature helps lower one’s risk of developing a mental illness, while enhancing one’s overall sense of well-being. But until now it wasn’t yet known as to the amount of time individuals would need to engage in green exercise in order to reap the benefits. Greater benefits seemed to occur if the environment included water, such as a lake or river.

Jo Barton and Jules Pretty, the authors of the study, utilized 10 prior studies done in the UK. The studies included over 1250 individuals of varying ages, gender, and degrees of mental health. Although everyone attained some benefit, younger individuals and those who had some type of mental illness obtained the greatest benefit. It was from these studies that they derived their conclusions regarding the mental health benefits of just 5 minutes of green exercise.

Some of the types of activity included in their analysis were walking, cycling, horseback riding, gardening, and fishing.

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